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Alverto v. Gronseth

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

April 29, 2014

JEROME CEASAR ALVERTO, Plaintiff,
v.
BARBARA J. GRONSETH and CATHY APLINE, Defendants.

ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION AND DENYING PETITIONER'S MOTION FOR INJUNCTIVE AND DECLARATORY RELIEF

BENJAMIN H. SETTLE, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on the Report and Recommendation ("R&R") of the Honorable Karen L. Strombom, United States Magistrate Judge (Dkt. 55), Plaintiff Jerome Ceasar Alverto's ("Alverto") objections to the R&R (Dkt. 69), and Alverto's motion for injunctive and declaratory relief (Dkt. 68). The Court has considered the R&R, Alverto's objections and his motion, as well as the remainder of the record. For the reasons stated herein, the Court adopts the R&R and denies Alverto's motion.

I. PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL HISTORY[1]

This matter arises out of the allegations in Alverto's amended complaint, alleging that his First Amendment rights were violated on October 2, 2010, when Defendant Barbara J. Gronseth ("Gronseth") ordered him to speak English, not Spanish, in the inmate law library at Clallam Bay Corrections Center ("CBCC"). Dkt. 34. Additionally, Alverto's complaint alleges that Gronseth and Defendant Officer Cathy Apline ("Apline"), a Sergeant at CBCC (collectively, "Defendants"), retaliated against him by placing him in segregation on June 19, 2013, denying him time in the library, and separating him from a witness in the library on October 2, 2012. Id.

On December 11, 2012, Alverto filed an amended complaint. Dkt. 34. In contrast to his prior complaints, Alverto's amended complaint does not name the State of Washington ("State") or the Department of Corrections ("DOC") as defendants. Compare Dkts. 1-1 (proposed complaint), 14 (complaint) and 34 (amended complaint). On December 11, 2012, due to the amendment of the complaint, the State and DOC were terminated as defendants from the Court docket. On August 21, 2013, Defendants filed for summary judgment, seeking to dismiss the State and DOC as well as the two remaining Defendants. Dkt. 49. On November 15, 2013, Alverto filed a response in opposition to Defendants' motion. Dkt. 53. On November 22, 2013, Defendants replied. Dkt. 54.

On December 16, 2013, Judge Strombom issued an R&R (Dkt. 55), wherein she recommended denying Defendants' request for dismissal of the State and DOC as moot and granting summary judgment and dismissal in favor of Defendants. Judge Strombom found that (1) the State and DOC were no longer defendants in the case; (2) Alverto failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to his First Amendment claim ( id. at 11); (3) the record did not reflect a genuine issue of material fact showing that Apline retaliated against Alverto ( id. at 12-13); (3) the record did not reflect a genuine issue of material fact that Gronseth retaliated against Alverto ( id. at 13-17); and (4) the record does not reflect a genuine issue of material fact that Alverto was denied access to the courts. Id. at 17-19.

On March 20, 2014, Alverto filed a motion for injunctive and declaratory relief. Dkt. 68. On March 26, 2014, after multiple extensions (Dkts. 59 and 62), Alverto also filed objections to the R&R. Dkt. 69. On April 4, 2014, Defendants responded in opposition to Alverto's motion for injunctive relief and declaratory relief. Dkt. 71. On April 18, 2014, Alverto replied in opposition. Dkt. 72.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Report and Recommendation

1. Dismissal of the State and DOC

In Alverto's objections, he repeatedly references DOC, as if it remained a defendant in this case. See, e.g., Dkt. 69 at 1-3. However, Judge Strombom's R&R properly found that the State and DOC had been terminated from the case, as Alverto's amended complaint did not name them as defendants. Dkt. 55 at 10-11. An amended complaint is a complete substitute for the prior complaint. See W.D. Local Civil Rule 15. The R&R is adopted on this basis. Therefore, to the extent that Alverto continues to make allegations against DOC or argue that summary judgment against them should not be granted, his arguments are of no avail.

2. First Amendment Claim

Alverto claimed that on October 2, 2010 a prison inmate was helping him understand his legal matters by translating English into Spanish, and Gronseth's interference with that conversation was a constitutional violation (Dkt. 34). Judge Strombom is correct in her conclusion that Alverto failed to establish a genuine issue of material fact that Gronseth violated his First Amendment rights by telling him and another inmate to speak English, rather than Spanish, in the prison law library. Dkt. 55 at 11. Prisoners do not have an independent First Amendment right to assist other inmates in litigation-related matters. Shaw v. Murphy, 532 U.S. 223 (2001). Additionally, prisoners do not have a First Amendment right to communicate with other ...


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